Mueller’s Public Remarks Stoke Impeachment Pressures on Capitol Hill
Special Counsel Robert Mueller earlier this week gave his first public remarks following the conclusion of his 22-month investigation into Russian election interference and alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
While the former FBI director did not divulge any new information, his words lit the fuse for a growing number of Democrats and Democratic presidential candidates to call for President Donald Trump’s impeachment.
“If we had had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller declared in his speech on Wednesday. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.
“Under long-standing department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office,” Mueller continued. “The special counsel’s office is part of the Department of Justice and by regulation it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was, therefore, not an option we could consider.”
Only minutes after Mueller ended his press conference, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for the first time called on the House of Representatives to move forward with impeachment proceedings. Booker called it Congress’ “legal and moral obligation” to begin impeachment proceedings immediately.
While presidential candidates have jumped on the opportunity to call for congressional action, Democratic House leadership remains hesitant to pursue such a move. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this year said in an interview that impeachment would be too divisive for the country and that President Trump is “not worth it.”
Robert Shapiro, professor of government at New York’s Columbia University, told The Well News the chance of the House to launching impeachment proceedings during the president’s current terms in office stands at 50/50.
“It will require revelations that would gain public support similar to what happened with [President Richard] Nixon,” Shapiro said. “This is needed to put enough pressure on Republicans in the Senate. Only that would be worth the risk for the Democrats, if there were a Senate trial.”
Though Mueller’s remarks have not shed additional light on any potential wrongdoing by the president, his statement ended the ambiguity that surrounded the investigation and subsequent report. His comments “should be cited to combat misrepresentations and any lying” by Trump and Attorney General William Barr when it comes to Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and their claim that the special counsel did not have sufficient evidence for obstruction, Shapiro said.
“Most important, he reported that he could not clear Trump of obstruction and that any means to go after Trump on obstruction now had to be handled outside the legal system — and this means Congressional investigation and possible impeachment. This makes clear that the new conversation is about further investigation and impeachment, which has changed minds in Congress and among the Democrats running for president. Mueller opened the door for the Democrats to move forward on impeachment should they choose to do so,” he said.
With an approval rating of around 42.5 percent, according to RealClearPolitics, and a strong economy to boast about, the public’s appetite for impeaching Trump remains low. Shapiro believes that only evidence of illegal or more despicable behavior would turn the public and Republicans in the Senate against the president.
“But even this might not be enough given the current state of partisan conflict,” he said.
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